Growing up in a working-class family, my parents seemed to incessantly preach about the conservation of our resources in order to save money. Whether it was finishing the food on my plate, shortening my shower, or ensuring I shut off the lights when I left a room–my parents had a lesson to share that always seemed to revolve back to that one key concept of conservation.. While these lessons originally stemmed from a desire to cut wasteful costs, they had a more subtle and seemingly invisible effect on my person. From just a young age, my parents unknowingly engrained within me the practices of sustainability. It’s no surprise then, that I find the green movements around the world extremely important and incredibly admirable. Coming from the United States, 2nd to last on the World Energy Council’s Energy Trilemma Index, it’s clear there’s a lot of work to be done (Tico Times).
Costa Rica, ranked 2nd on WCE’s list, leads the race by setting an inspirational example. Due to a combination of hydropower and geothermal power, electricity in Costa Rica is mostly Carbon neutral. For a quarter of the year 2015, the country’s electricity was supplied via only renewable resources. Furthermore, in 2016, the country achieved a total of 150 days in which fossil fuels did not contribute to the energy mix (Energy Digital). Costa Rica has also continued to expand its range of natural reserves. Currently, about one-third of the country’s land is protected. As stated by The Nature Conservancy, Costa Rica recently created a protected marine park area named the Seamounts Marine Management Area, second in size to only Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.
Additionally, according to a commitment made at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in 2009, Costa Rica plans to go completely carbon neutral by 2021, meaning they plan to completely eliminate the small amount of CO2 the country does in fact produce via fossil fuels used in transportation (The Costa Rican News). This idea was built upon at the same conference in 2015 when both private and public sectors received a “call to action,” of sorts. This supposed call included one simple idea: make coffee the first sustainable agricultural product in the world. As a leading coffee supplier worldwide, Costa Rica has taken initiative and set some fairly ambitious goals. The processes behind these goals include the reduced use of fertilizers that create nitrous oxide emissions, recycling wastewater from the conversion of roots and seeds into reusable biomass; using that recycled biomass to power drying operations; and reducing CO2 emissions by encouraging agroforestry methods that add shade trees to coffee farms, absorbing CO2 and improving soil health (Daily Coffee News).
I say again, ‘waste not, want not.’ Just as my parents unknowingly guided me as a young child, I believe its necessary for the Ticos to guide us, Americans. Many American citizens have the notion that Costa Rica, as well as other Central American countries, lag the United States due to a gap in technology. Bless their souls, for they would not be more mistaken. While Costa Rica may indeed place significantly less importance on the digital era, the country leads by leaps and bounds regarding environmental impact, social equity, and even general populous happiness and well-being (New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index). It’s clear that Costa Rica is galloping along the progressive road to becoming completely green, while simultaneously indulging in the the ambitious race to create the world’s first sustainable agricultural product. So, United States, take notes. Maybe we all could learn a thing or two regarding priorities…